Winning and Winning and Winning and Winning
How a Team Becomes a Legend
By Mike Greife
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In the world of collegiate competition, few teams reach legendary status and most that do are remembered for their coaches, such as John Wooden at UCLA, Bear Bryant at Alabama and Tom Osborne at Nebraska.
For the University of Central Missouri, most people would identify the 1984 national championship basketball teams and the 1970 Pecan Bowl football team. Yet, another team at UCM has earned such legendary acclaim. It's the G.E. Davila Chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association Lambda Alpha Epsilon team.
For six consecutive years, the team has won the national sweepstakes trophy. They just returned from regionals this fall where 27 of the 29 members earned awards, and the team claimed its seventh consecutive sweepstakes. This spring, they will accept the challenge to bring home a seventh consecutive national sweepstakes trophy. If they succeed, it will be another record for the national organization.
Tested in areas such as physical agility, criminal justice knowledge, criminal law, police management, corrections, juvenile justice, criminology, crime scene investigation and firearms, Central Missouri is known as the team to beat. What is the key factor that brings anywhere from 30 to 50 students together in a common goal, resulting in seven winning seasons?
Their reputation hasn't happened by accident nor is it the mentorship of a legendary coach. It's not luck; no one is that lucky. Nor is it the work of one group of students. After all, students graduate and move on to careers and life. Instead, it appears to be a spirit of winning, pride, strategy and discipline passed down by the students themselves to their successors.
"It's the students," says Roger Pennel, professor of criminal justice and one of the group's advisers. "They set the standards, and they set them high."
An Inside Look
The food court of the Elliott Union is a busy place during lunch. Students come and go, grabbing a quick lunch between classes and other obligations. Five members of GED are seated around a table. All are busy and haven't much time, but they make time to talk about what makes this team so successful.
Jessica Nelson, Steve Aston and Jennifer Ianno are among the team's more senior members, competing as undergraduates and now as graduates. Sophomore Jeryn Batman and junior John Newman are newer members. It's up to them to keep the tradition alive. An annually changing membership brings it own challenges.
"A lot of students go to this competition to party. We go to win."
"This year, more than half the group was new," Ianno says. "It's up to us veteran members to help the new ones prepare."
It's serious business. Veterans of the annual competitions provide guidance on the little things, such as how to enter a room with confidence and who to look out for as major competition.
Aston shares additional insight.
For a lot of teams in any competition, the coaches provide the motivation to succeed," he says. "Our coaches are there for us in an advisory capacity, but we set the expectations for ourselves. We want to succeed, and we figure out how to do it and how to motivate those who will follow us."
It seems to work. The regional and national trophies housed in the Humphreys Building are more than enough proof.